If you’re like most women, you know what’s normal for your menstrual cycle and can usually count on the same cycle length, the same flow rate, and the same duration each month. Of course, sometimes something throws off your routine or your body, and your period reflects the changes.
If your periods are heavier than usual, chances are a change has occurred, and Dr. Anju Nayar can get to the bottom of it. Our Nova Women’s Health team helps women in the North Reading, Massachusetts, area identify, understand, and manage their reproductive health issues, so if heavy periods are interfering with your life, we invite you to come in for an exam.
We provide a safe and professional environment where you can feel comfortable talking about your heavy periods and know that our specialists have diagnosed and treated this condition — called menorrhagia — often.
Let’s start by defining a heavy period. Because every woman is different, it can be tough to tell what constitutes abnormal bleeding, but specific symptoms let us know when your flow is too heavy:
Heavy periods can also make you feel fatigued because the blood loss over time can lead to anemia. On average, menstrual blood amounts to about 30-40 mL. If you have any of the symptoms mentioned above, you could be losing around 80 mL of blood each month, which means you have menorrhagia, and we need to find out why.
Heavy periods can signify many different conditions and situations. When you talk with Dr. Nayar, tell her about other symptoms and details, such as how frequently you have heavy periods, whether they involve pain and cramping, what medications and supplements you take, and any past or present health conditions.
Those factors and the results of your physical exam help Dr. Nayar diagnose the underlying cause of menorrhagia so she can get you started with effective treatment. Here’s a partial list of the many potential causes of heavy periods.
Because hormones regulate your periods, they’re a prime suspect in menorrhagia. For example, if your body produces too much estrogen, it can thicken your uterine lining and lead to heavy periods. Hypothyroidism, when your thyroid is underactive, also can cause irregular and heavy periods.
If you use hormonal birth control and recently started, stopped, or changed your prescription, that may be the reason your period is heavy, especially during the first few days of your cycle.
Blood thinners can cause heavy bleeding during your periods.
Sometimes, noncancerous growths called fibroids and polyps develop on your uterine lining and even outside of your uterus. Depending on their size and location, they could be the culprit behind your heavy periods.
Similar to fibroids and polyps, adenomyosis involves rogue tissue that grows where it shouldn’t — in this case, endometrial tissue invades your uterine muscles, thickens the wall, and causes heavy bleeding.
When you have a condition called PCOS, characterized by too much of the androgen hormone, the hormonal imbalance confuses your body and leads to a cascade of symptoms, including heavy periods.
The lining of your uterus (endometrial tissue) can grow beyond the uterine cavity, a condition known as endometriosis. It can cause heavy, painful periods.
Some IUDs use hormones to prevent pregnancy, but ParaGuard is a nonhormonal version with a copper coil that triggers an inflammatory response that’s toxic to sperm and eggs and prevents fertilization. It also causes heavy periods.
What appears as a heavy period may be related to an unknown pregnancy. For example, a miscarriage produces a lot of blood, which many women mistake for a heavy period. An ectopic pregnancy that develops outside of your uterus can also cause heavy bleeding that feels like a heavy period.
The treatment Dr. Nayar recommends depends entirely on what’s causing your heavy periods. She may prescribe birth control pills or change your current prescription, or she may suggest hormone replacement therapy to balance your hormones or gonadotropin-releasing hormones (GnRH) to shrink your fibroids.
For severe fibroids and endometriosis, Dr. Nayar could recommend a laparoscopic procedure, minimally invasive surgery to remove endometrial and fibroid growths. In severe cases, a hysterectomy (removal of your uterus) may be necessary.
Don’t think you have to live with heavy periods. Discover what’s causing the problem and get back to a normal flow. Call Nova Women’s Health, or book an appointment online today.